May 19th, 2015

Why Board Games Are Back

board-game-529586_1280I’m not a long-time lover of the hobby but I fell hard and fast for it recently. By total luck, right now happens to the most exciting time to be a board gaming enthusiast. When most people think of “tabletop” games they think of either casino gambling, antiquated board games like Clue or Monopoly, or worst of all, the fantasy dice games from the 1980s, often stigmatized as being played by Middle Earth-loving, Dungeons & Dragons outcasts. Well, that’s changing. A lot of cross-pollination has been going on recently, putting us in a new golden age of social table games.

For me it started a little over a year ago. On a total whim, I was in Christiana Mall and picked up a strange and clever-looking game: Forbidden Island—a cooperative game where the players work together to collect treasures on a sinking island. I was summarily swallowed alive by this new world of what is now called “modern tabletop gaming.”

Wil Wheaton of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fame is exhibit A. He has over one million Youtube subscribers for his weekly internet show “TableTop” where he plays card, dice, and board games with B-list actors and internet celebrities. Exhibit B is the spike in sales. Since 2012, annual industry-wide sales have gone up 10-20% by major companies, and attendance at gaming conventions have increased by thousands. Some of the reason for their success is sheer business—brilliant designers making fresh games. These companies have a broad spectrum of games appealing to diehard-gamers and non-gamers alike. Some are inexpensive, easy-to-learn, 30-minute family games while some are hundred dollar behemoths taking hours to learn and hours to play.

But why is this blowing up now? Exhibit C: I think there is evidence accruing that people are tired of their technology. Friends who only see each other on Facebook and social media are beginning to quietly revolt. Humans are social animals, and rather than spending hours playing XBOX or texting each other, there is a movement gaining momentum for in-person gaming. Tabletop gaming scratches that itch for families and friends alike.

For proof, I urge you to go to Barnes and Noble or Target and just look at how retailers are responding to the evolution. Games that were never carried 5-7 years ago now pack the shelves. Instead of just Apples to Apples and Risk, retailers are now carrying elegant, creative games with quality components, knock-out artwork, and unique game mechanics. You’ll find games like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Zombicide, Sheriff of Nottingham, King of Tokyo, and Sushi Go!

If you’re a geeky adult, or have kids over eight, you should consider reaping the benefits of this new golden age. And if you want to try to win one of these games, attend the 4th Annual all-ages sci-fi and fantasy event “Magic, Space, & Swords!” this August for your chance to go home with one of these boxes of fun. Don’t forget to check out “The Dice Tower” on Youtube for weekly reviews, or boardgamegeek.com for industry news, trends, and ratings.

Lastly, Mr. Matt, that’s me, will be exhibiting family-friendly card games at the Library Con on Saturday June 6 from 10am-12pm at the Perryville Branch. Come play a sample game!


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May 11th, 2015

NMTC Science Café: People, Ticks, and Lyme Disease

Deer tickI was chatting with a patron recently about an investigative report on how little is spent on Lyme disease prevention and research.

This is an important topic to me as I have been treated for Lyme disease after finding the bull’s eye bite plus the flu-like symptoms and severe headache. When I started to search for facts about Lyme disease, I found some eye opening information.

Ron Hamlen, PhD., Vice-chair, Lyme Disease Association of Southeastern PA, Inc., sent me some information compiled by Dr. Daniel Cameron, a researcher and expert on tick-borne diseases.

Here a few quick facts about the seriousness of Lyme disease:

 

– Ticks have been around for 15,000,000 years and the first case was described 5300 years ago.

– CDC reports 300,000 new cases/year, that’s 822 cases/week

– It is the fastest growing disease over HIV, Breast Cancer, Hepatitis and Colon Cancer

– Research funding is only $21 million compared to Hepatitis ($200 million), Colon Cancer ($288 million), Breast Cancer ($674 million) and HIV (3005 Million)

– The Elisa test used is only 35-50% accurate, the disease is usually misdiagnosed because it exhibits symptoms similar to other diseases. Fewer than 50% people remember being bitten by a tick or even noticing a rash.

– 40% of Lyme patients end up with long-term health problems. If left untreated, 60% patients have arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling

– Some Lyme disease patients are as disabled as people with Congestive Heart Failure and have as much pain as post-operative patients

If you want to learn about Lyme disease, come to our NMTC Science Café: People, Ticks and Lyme Disease with Ron Hamlen, PhD, Lyme Disease Assoc. of Southeastern PA. We will have an informal discussion led by Dr. Hamlen, May 19, 7:00 pm at the Elkton Central Library.
If you can’t come to the program but are still interested in this topic, go to NIH, MDHM or CDC (as per links below)

Did you know dogs can contract Lyme disease, too?


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